Storytelling is one thing that is common to art, literature, advertising and filmmaking. People passionate about storytelling end up taking up professions that help them enhance and live their love for storytelling. Swati Bhattacharya, Chief Creative Officer, FCB Ulka, and Aniruddha Sen (Oni), Founder, Electric Dreams Film Company, love storytelling and their passion took them to the terrains of filmmaking other than advertising.
Recently, both Sen and Bhattacharya got together to make the film ‘Saints of Sin’. The film is directed by Sen and the concept is Bhattacharya’s. The subject is relevant in today’s scenario — a moving tale of urban Indian women and their fight with society. The film also weaves the complex vices of wrath, greed, lust, vanity, gluttony, sloth and envy into its complex fabric.
The documentary takes us through the journey of eight real women who have fought against an unfair society. One woman talks about being sexually abused by her brother; another is a transgender who wishes to find a man who loves her like he would love a normal woman. The film explores the sins these women relate to while taking their stand in a patriarchal society.
Built on intimate conversations recorded over three years, these women recount their stories with searing honesty and talk about their struggle against entrenched patriarchal notions, family expectation and the pressures of their own conscience socialized over centuries. By meeting their sin, they found the chance to form new forms of affection and adventure and are no longer prisoners of their memories or mistakes.
Interestingly, the film also features Bhattacharya’s colleague Debarpita Banerjee, President North and East at FCB Ulka. She has talked about her feeling of ‘rath’. One would also get to see Bhattacharya telling her life story and talking about her feeling of ‘Sloth’. Runa Shamita has talked about her feeling of ‘Greed’. She heads one of the biggest insurance firms in Kenya. Srila Chatterjee has talked about her view on the importance of looking good and staying healthy in the feeling of ‘Vanity. Chatterjee runs a very successful interior showroom called Baro. Paromita Vohra is a filmmaker and writer and has talked about her feeling ‘Lust’. Shreya Mukherjee, SVP & Strategy Director at Publicis New York, has also shared her story. Another woman in the film, Gopi, runs a gym in town. Pradipta Ray, Professor at NID, is a transgender woman, and she talks about her feeling of ‘Envy’. She has explained that she is at times jealous of normal women who have beautiful skin and are fancied by men.
While the women and their conversations change mood, from witty to soulful to introspective to confessional to just banter, the film keeps linking them with characters and nuances from Jewish mythology, Indian literature and history. The conversations are bound together by eight beautiful songs, sung by Bangladeshi singers Anusheh Anadil, Armeen Musa, Nashid Kamal and Aanon Siddiqua. The film also features a song by Bangladesh’s only all-woman choir, The Ghaashphoring Choir. These songs enrich and embellish the context of the conversations adding to the soul and subtext.
Sen has worked with Bhattacharya for many ad films together. The film has been shot on a Handycam.
Advertising is one profession where there is nothing like a nine to five job. You have to almost all the time be on your toes. When asked how she manages time – Bhattacharya also has to take care of her kids – she said, “It took so long! You always find time for your hobbies. That also keeps us creatively active. I have always had partners on board. For this film I had (Oni) on board and then I also had someone on board for sound. My work here was mostly on ideation. I was doing the interviews because all the characters were close to me.
Bhattacharya also talks about how her passion for filmmaking helps her in life. “I always say that whenever you are bored in a relationship, you must always try a romance. I am married to advertising and short films are my little love affairs.”
Bhattacharya further said, “Initially I would do the shooting as I had borrowed a Handycam from the office and had done the first few interviews on my own to convince Oni of the idea. Once Oni came on board, then he did it and I went along with him for the interviews.”
What inspired Bhattacharya for this film? She replied, “I think human beings and their stories inspire me. It used to be only Oni and me shooting as the interviews are very personal in nature. Right now this becomes a go through thing when advertising becomes a little mundane. This just balances out my creative journey.”
When asked if advertising has helped her follow her passion, Bhattacharya said, “You need a little bit of confidence to tell a story and advertising has given us confidence to tell a story. I always wanted to be a writer. Whether I write for advertising or a short film or a brochure, if I enjoy it I don’t mind.”
Sen is a renowned ad film maker and is a product of the National Institute of Design with specialisation in films. He always wanted to be a filmmaker and has worked on brands like Horlicks, Britannia, Tanishq and Urban Ladder.
Talking about the challenges one faces while doing something of one’s own and what makes him sail through, Sen said, “Yes, it is difficult and we are constantly pulled back to our bread and butter. I think that the drive to tell stories makes us follow our passion. Eventually, we are storytellers. The hunger to tell stories pushes us to do other things.”